By Jody Scott
The Claws are out this weekend at Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway as the Palmerston North Panthers prowl into town to take on the Nelson Tigers for the Super Stock Challenge Cup.
It will be the first hit out for both teams looking at rebounding after last season’s early exit at the Palmy Teams Champs. The Tigers have struggled to fill the team over the past seasons, due to retirements, costs and a lack of numbers.
But an S.O.S. from Nelson went out and two of the sport’s most formidable drivers, Peter and Ethan Rees, responded. The father and son duo have been representing Gisborne Giants over the past few years after a falling out with the Panthers.
Peter is a five time NZ stock car champion and won the Super Stock title in 2015.
Ethan has learnt from the best and their “Spank” cars are two of the quickest in the country.
The local contingent include Alex Bright who’s new car is doing the numbers so far this season. The “homebuilt” has been setting the pace in Nelson and almost pulled off winning the Canterbury Champs last weekend, he was the quickest car on the track. Another local driver, Trevor Lineham never shirk his duties, he has spent a few years watching on while numbers were strong but has stepped up over recent seasons to proudly wear the Tigers Colours. Anthony McKenzie is the final member of the Tigers, he has developed over the past few years and will be keen to prove himself when given the chance he too was unlucky in Christchurch just missing out of a podium finish getting spun in the final laps.
The Panthers will be an unknown quantity this season, a few internal rumbles over recent seasons, driver retirements and defections have thwarted the most successful team of all time, they were bundled out of the Palmy heats last year in front of their home crowd so have a point to prove this season and it all starts here in Nelson. They have talent to burn in the younger drivers, they fear no one so the battle will be mouth -watering to say the least, it will possibly be the only time we get to see the Tigers race on home ground this year, so come and support the Tigers, one of the most popular teams in the country against a Panther’s team wanting to make amends.
Ian Burson hasn’t mucked around in setting the pace in the new car, his first outing in Christchurch saw him break the Super Saloon lap record, driving around the 2NZ car with ease, he was the first one to try the high line all night and even when he almost lost control in his first attempt he eventually got it right and produced another last lap win, the crowd were on their feet.
The Sprint cars ran round 3 of the Hydralink War of the Wings, Connor Rangi and Alicia MacLauchlan continued to impress, both finished the main feature in 4th and 8th respectfully, Rangi now leads the Series after round 3, Jason Smith made the final but car trouble on the opening lap meant an early exit while Kris Gerard bounced back after losing a wheel in his opening race to make the final but was involved in a mid-race accident leaving the car looking pretty banged up on the infield.
The T.Q’s return for another round for their club championship, a big field is expected again as they build towards the NZ Championship here in February, they have a couple of big meetings in Christchurch before Xmas including the South island title, they want as much track time as possible, it’s pretty much hammer time from here on in. The stock cars return for their hit to pass, expect a few bent bumpers given the antics so far this year, it’s the final hit out before Xmas, then many will be on the road as the NZ title season begins early in the New Year